Reminder: Some of Health Canada’s COVID-19-related “flexibilities” expire Sept 30

| Staff

Health Canada is reminding federal cannabis licence holders that some of its COVID-related “flexibilities” will end on September 30, while others will continue. 

The federal health regulator originally sent a memo out in May of this year, informing licence holders it would be extending certain administration and enforcement adjustments beyond the previously set September 30, 2023 cut-off. 

The federal health authority has previously extended some of these “flexibilities” on several occasions. These had originally been put in place early on in the pandemic to give licence holders more options for compliance given some COVID-19 related limitations.  

The flexibilities that will remain in place beyond the September 30, 2023 deadline include:

1. Allowing licence holders to submit additional security clearance applications to fill key positions (responsible person, head of security, master grower, quality assurance person, and their alternates), provided that a rationale for the additional clearance is provided.

2. Activities that do not require physical possession of cannabis can be conducted off-site by licence holders, provided that all requirements of the Cannabis Act and its regulations are complied with, and records are kept and made available to Health Canada upon request. Specifically, the activities that can be conducted off-site are:

Quality Assurance

  • Investigating complaints received in respect of the quality of the cannabis, provided that a complete investigation can be conducted off-site.
  • Batch record approval by the quality assurance person from a remote location, provided the quality of the cannabis can be adequately assessed without physical possession of cannabis before it is made available.

Facilitating Sale of Cannabis

  • Answering phone calls
  • Registering medical patients
  • Helping individuals to navigate a website
  • Providing product information
  • Taking orders
  • Fulfilling recordkeeping and reporting requirements
  • Entering data and information to comply with monthly reporting requirements for the cannabis tracking system

3. Witnessing the on-site destruction of cannabis by licence holders can be done virtually (using a camera or another device), provided that a copy of the video is retained and is included in the destruction records required to be maintained under the Cannabis Regulations.

4. Permitting holders of an import or export permit to use different ports of entry/exit than those indicated on their permits, provided that all other requirements of the permit are respected.

5. In situations in which a security clearance holder is required to accompany cannabis for off-site antimicrobial treatment or destruction, permitting the security clearance holder to not enter an off-site facility that is authorized, as per the Cannabis Regulations, to possess and produce cannabis. This is permitted so long as the security clearance holder otherwise accompanies the cannabis before it enters and, if applicable, after it exits the off-site facility. 

6. Permitting a packaging date on cannabis products that is plus/minus 4 days of the printed packaging date on the label, provided records of the actual packaging date are kept alongside other required packaging and labelling records as stated in Cannabis Regulations paragraphs 224(2)(b) and 225(2)(b), in the event of recalls. For more information on Packaging and Labelling requirements please consult the Packaging and Labelling Guide. 

Health Canada also notes that licence holders will be given “ample advance notice” in regard to administration and enforcement of these provision changes.

Measures that WILL end September 30, 2023

Previously, Health Canada had allowed medical cannabis producers to accept verbal attestations from patients when filling out their registration application to become a client for medical purposes, rather than requiring patients to provide a signature when they are not able to do so. This allowance will not be extended beyond the September 30, 2023 date. 

Health Canada also reminds stakeholders of their ongoing public consultation on potential amendments to the Cannabis Regulations, which is open until May 24, 2023. 

Health Canada is seeking feedback on potential amendments to the Cannabis Regulations around licensing, security measures, production, packaging and labelling requirements, and record-keeping for licence holders.

In addition, in a 60-day notice of intent published on Friday, March 24, the federal health authority that oversees the cannabis file said it’s considering potential amendments to the Canadian Cannabis Regulations that would seek to streamline and clarify existing requirements, eliminate inefficiencies in the regulations, and reduce administrative and regulatory burdens where possible. Some of these potential amendments relate to some of the pandemic flexibilities. 

The notice also points out that this proposal is separate from the current legislative review of the Cannabis Act, which is primarily focused on the societal impacts of cannabis legalization rather than a regulatory review.